Before you go any further down the path to product development your team needs to consider getting out of the building and getting critical customer feedback via minimum viable product testing as quickly as it can.
“There’s no substitute for face-to-face discovery with customers to see their reaction to the problem or the solution,” write entrepreneurs-turned-educators Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. “Do their eyes light up or glaze over?”
In a chapter from their book, The Startup Owner’s Manual, excerpted for Inc., Blank and Dorf argue that startups should get their minimum viable product (MVP) live as quickly as possible in order to confirm whether customers actually share their vision of the need/problem. The MVP should be simple — all it really needs to do is “describe the problem in words or pictures (“Does your office look like this?”), show screen shots of the potential solution (“Pay your bills this way”), and encourage users to ‘sign up to learn more.'”
Companies can then “measure how many people care about the problem or need and how deeply they care. The most obvious indicator is the percentage of invitees who register to learn more.” Another crucial indicator that you’re on the right track is whether people envision their friends/colleagues having the same problem or need, as well. It’s crucial to approach the results and feedback with an open mind, suggest Blank and Dorf. “Your goal should be to know the customer you’re pursuing, and every aspect of his or her business, so deeply and intimately that they start to think of you and talk to you as if you were ‘one of them.'” Read the full post for more on how to perform customer development experiments for your minimum viable product testing.
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For as often as the term is used, there is still a considerable amount of confusion surrounding the notion of a minimum viable product. Watch this video featuring Marty Cagan, a Managing Partner with the Silicon Valley Product Group, for more clarification as to how you should approach and define minimum viable product. And read this post from the OpenView Blog to learn more about how adopting a lean methodology can improve your product development.